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THE RIGHT FOOD FOR THE SEASON

By Nikki & David Goldbeck

Monday, November 23, 2009.

The clocks have fallen back and the warm weather we enjoyed over the summer months is just a happy memory! But as the weather gets colder, the foods we relied on over the summer just don’t seem to hit the mark.

The barbeque is put away for another year, the thought of salad and fresh fruit is not quite as appealing as it was in August, and even ice-cream seems more of a torture than a treat!

Instead, heavier foods - soups, stews and casseroles with rich gravies and more substance overall, seem to fit with the natural rhythm of the season. But that doesn’t necessarily mean these foods fit with your weight loss plans.

Many people notice that they feel hungrier with the onset of colder weather. This is actually more than just a return of appetite, which sometimes lags with the heat. It is also indicative of the body’s historic instinct to lay down fat for both insulation and extra fuel to serve as protection against inclement weather.

So, how do you satisfy your natural cravings for more sustenance without undermining your commitment to weight management. Here are some ideas for making the daily fare heartier, but not weightier:

 

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Breakfast is the Foundation

Some people love breakfast. Those who don’t should work on finding appealing breakfasts, as studies indicate that people who eat in the morning have less trouble managing their weight. The ideal breakfast supplies carbohydrate for energy - but balances it with protein to keep blood sugar (and insulin) from spiking.

Easy options include ready-to-eat cereals that are made from whole grains, with at least 4 grams of fibre per serving and no more than 6 grams of sugar. (Keep in mind that 4 grams is the equivalent of 1 teaspoon of sugar - use the nutrition info label to check!) Hot cereals are also more popular at this time of year, and eating porridge is one of the easiest ways to get whole grains in at breakfast. To improve the nutritional value of both hot and cold cereals, add a tablespoon or two of wheat germ, a spoonful of ground flaxseed and some chopped walnuts or sunflower seeds.

If a more substantial breakfast is your style, swap the fry for a healthier option. Baked beans, eggs and cheese are all good protein sources and soy or veggie-based options such as sausages and rashers are leaner, lower in calories and generally higher in protein than processed meat counterparts.

Soups and Stews with Substance

You can pack a lot of nutrition and satisfaction into a limited number of calories by preparing bean-and-vegetable soups and stews. The beans provide protein and fibre and even count to your 5-a-day veggie goal. Because soups and stews are easily prepared in quantity (and are usually even better the next day), they are convenient as well.

Roots and Shoots

As the seasons change, so should the vegetables you use. Despite the fact that some vegetables have a reputation as “fattening,” no one ever becomes overweight by eating too many vegetables - although topping them with too much gravy or butter can be a culprit!

Some excellent vegetables to use right now include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, all kinds of cooked greens, fennel (a wonderful aniseed-flavoured vegetable that is too often ignored), beetroot, parsnips, potatoes, swede, turnips and the many varieties of squash and pumpkin.

Bring on the Beans

Legumes (a.k.a. beans and lentils) are the ideal winter food - hearty, warming and very versatile. Buying them in the dried form is economical and practical in the winter when you don’t mind the stove being on for a couple of hours. They require no talent to cook (just soak and simmer) and they can be cooked up in quantity for use over several days.

In addition to being the foundation for some great soups and stews, beans make terrific spreads and pates. They can be transformed into burgers and loaves, they are essential for Mexican tostados and burritos and, on the nutrition score, they are practically fat free, high in protein and one of the best sources of healthy (and filling) dietary fibre.

Cold Weather Salads

Many people think of salad as warm weather food. But vegetables are essential year-round, and a mixture of raw and cooked vegetables is best in most cases. In winter, salads can be made more enticing by giving them added significance. You can do this and still be sparing with calories and fat by focusing on some basic homemade dressings or simply using good olive oil, lemon juice or Balsamic vinegar.

Fruit for when it’s Frosty

While fresh fruit salad is hardly tempting, seasonal fruits can be the basis of winter desserts. Think baked apples and poached pears, stuffed figs and warm plums.

Warming Winter Drinks

If hot chocolate is your downfall, perhaps you can be weaned off this addiction by switching to hot spiced tea instead. Use cinnamon, ginger and freshly ground pepper for punch, and vanilla essence to make it mellow.

Someone once said, “There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.” It is the same with food: there is no such thing as a bad season, only inappropriate food choices. Every new season provides new menu opportunities.

 

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